Saturday, 30 October 2010

Me, Michael Portillo and the Microphones!

Radio 4  - Part 1
I was a bit stunned last week to receive an e-mail from the BBC (oh-oh not paid my TV licence? Hang on ... Ron is over 75, we don't pay for a licence any more....) It was from someone from Radio 4 wanting my phone number (oh yes....????) Well I looked him up on the BBC website, and his credentials seemed legit. So I mailed my number.

Glad I did!
I was asked if I would take part in recording a Radio 4 programme The Things We Forgot To Remember. The subject was to be Harold Godwineson -basically,  why should we remember someone who lost a battle?

Was I interested? Daft question!

Arrangements were made and yesterday (Friday 29th) I trotted off to Waltham Abbey, Essex, to meet with producer Tom Alban and the programme's host Michael Portillo. Most people in the UK have heard of Mr Portillo, but for those outside of Britain, he used to be a Member of Parliament and a Minister for various departments during the years of Margaret Thatcher. Recently, however, having quit Parliament, he has been known for hosting various TV and Radio documentaries, and as a journalist. He studied history at Cambridge.

Why Waltham Abbey? Well the original abbey was founded by Harold circa 1047, probably in thanks to God for Harold's recovery after a serious illness.
And because he is possibly buried there ... read on!

When I got to the abbey the two guys had also just arrived - said hello to Michael (nice man) and Tom(another nice man). Introductions over we wandered round to the rear of the present abbey (much smaller than the Medieval one - though possibly about the same size in ground area as Harold's original church.) We stood and chatted (into microphones) by the Harold Stone - the marker of where King Harold was possibly buried and a tribute stone to him - both set where the Medieval alter would have been. The stone was covered in floral tributes left there on 14th October. (Mine, of course, was placed at the similar stone at Battle Abbey) Michael read out the wording inscribed there.

We talked about Harold's resting place. I am certain his bones are buried on the south coast at Bosham Church, near Chichester, the Godwine's main manor house. The bones discovered there, some years ago, consist of a headless torso and only one leg - and are buried beneath the chancel arch. It doesn't take a lot of working out to realise this is Harold. (who else would it be? The only other important people would be Godwine himself or King Cnut - both of whom were buried at Winchester)

However: I am also certain in my bones that Harold's head and heart were taken to Waltham and placed beneath the alter of his original church. A full skeleton has never been found at Waltham in the area where Harold was supposedly buried - but a heart would deteriorate rapidly, and a skull could easily be missed or also deteriorate over the years.

Harold's body and soul rests at peace at Bosham. His Life and Love are at Waltham. I think that is the truth - but we are not meant to discover it as a certainty.

We then went inside because it was one of those days when the passing traffic of the busy main road was noisy.

Michael was very professional and calm and capable - I fluffed things several times, and completely forgot what I was supposed to be saying. I was trying very hard to be calm and capable as well though! This was very important for me and I will have no idea whether I've blown it or not until the programme is broadcast. I expect they'll cut most of me out and stick to other calm and capable professional historians, not just little me with my huge passion for supporting Harold as our rightful King. Oh well. Such is life.

I listen to radio 4 a lot, especially the Today programme (wish James Naughtie would read one of my novels for his book programme :-( Woman's Hour, Start the Week, In Our Time etc. 

One thing I hadn't realised with recording for radio - we had two microphones  (one each) and it was important to make sure they did not get "switched" i.e. if I was on the right, talking into the right hand mike, then moved to the left as we walked away - the right hand microphone had to stay with me... otherwise the voice direction would be different in the broadcast. Interesting!

Quite a few people came up to shake Michael's hand. Hmph. No one shook mine :-/ LOL.

The programme is to be broadcast on November 15th at 8 p.m. on BBC Radio 4. There will be a "listen again" option via computer link - so anyone, anywhere will be able to listen (probably a day later)  but I will confirm all this nearer the time

 I had a giggle afterwards when I popped into the White Witch in the Abbey Square - a lovely shop owned by lovely, kind people - it might be Wiccan/Pagan orientated, but if you want something different as a gift for someone - a beautiful mobile, or a ceramic fairy, that's the place to go. I often pop in for a chance to chill, relax, and receive a genuinely given hug. While in there someone remarked about seeing Michael Portillo in town - I was delighted to explain why!

By the way, there is also an excellent Pie & Mash shop in Waltham Abbey. Highly recommended.

Back to the radio.... I fluffed the ending a bit. For the life of me I couldn't remember the line I had suggested on the phone to Tom - that Harold was the last English King to die protecting his kingdom from foreign invasion. He fought for us - for the people of England - against a tyrant and a bully. That he lost in the attempt was not his fault. William had no right to the English throne. None at all - I don't know if I got that across in the recording. I don't know if I conveyed any of the passion I feel for Harold, my hero.

I did my best though. I did my best.